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Nature, art, and politics came together to create Shenandoah National Park and its signature feature, the Skyline Drive. In the 1920s, as cities became more crowded and use of the automobile more widespread, the National Park Service became increasingly interested in establishing parks in the Southeast. Demonstrating the newest ideas about scenic parkway design, the Skyline Drive travels along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the now-196,000-acre Shenandoah National Park. The 105.5 miles of the Skyline Drive pass from Front Royal to Rockfish Gap near Waynesboro, offering panoramic views of the Shenandoah Valley the Great Valley of Virginia to the west and the Piedmont to the east as it passes through eight northern Virginia counties.

The Bureau of Public Roads, in cooperation with the National Park Service, constructed the drive between 1931 and 1939. Improvements have been ongoing and a major rehabilitation was begun in 1983. Congressional appropriations largely with funding from the Federal Drought Relief Administration, Public Works Administration, and Civilian Conservation Corps financed the construction of roads and trails, but the acquisition of land for the park and the road's right-of-way were left up to the Commonwealth of Virginia and private donors. Seven resettlement communities, including one at Ida Valley in Page County (PG18), were established in the Shenandoah Valley for tenants, squatters, and others unable to move themselves.

Plans for development of Shenandoah National Park adhered to scenic preservation, naturalistic landscaping, and rustic architecture prescribed by the Park Service's chief landscape architect, Thomas C. Vint. In 1935, landscape architect Harvey P. Benson was given control over the master planning and design work for the entire park. Beyond the Skyline Drive, Shenandoah National Park includes recreational areas for picnicking and camping, trails, lodges, cabins, and other amenities built by the CCC and the park's concessionaire, the Virginia Skyline Company, using native stone, logs, and wood. More than 4,000 workers labored to build and landscape the Skyline Drive, with its sixty-five original overlooks, as well as construct overnight facilities at Big Meadows, Lewis Mountain, and Dickey Ridge. Other historic buildings predate the establishment of the park such as the lodge and cabins at Skyland, built during the early twentieth century by resort developer George Freeman Pollock. Massanutten Lodge 1911, designed by Washington, D.C., architect Victor Mindeleff, is among the most notable examples.

Writing Credits

Anne Carter Lee



Anne Carter Lee, "SHENANDOAH NATIONAL PARK", SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of Virginia vol 2

Buildings of Virginia: Valley, Piedmont, Southside, and Southwest, Anne Carter Lee and contributors. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2015, 62-62.

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